Friday, March 12, 2010

A century of systematic innovation: My favorite milestones (Part-3: 1976 to 2010)

In a previous article, I wrote about how the method of innovation has evolved over the past century. In a three part series I am writing about my favorite milestones in this journey. These milestones are not necessarily the first occurrences but they are more representative of how the method of innovation has evolved. In many cases the milestone would have catalyzed what was to happen in future. This article is the third of the three parts. Check part-1 (includes a picture) and part-2.

· Innovation and entrepreneurship, Peter Drucker (1985): Peter Drucker made two significant contributions through his book “Innovation and entrepreneurship”: (1) He said that innovation ought to be a discipline (2) Basic principles of the discipline are same whether the innovation is in for-profit context or a not-for-profit (or social) context. He identified seven sources of innovation and also suggested four innovation strategies. Drucker’s approach ignores three basic areas of systematic innovation (1) idea management systems (2) social psychology and how it helps to improve rate of idea adoption (3) role of systematic experimentation.

· Organizational culture and leadership, Edgar Schein (1985): Schein published his seminal book “Organizational culture and leadership” the same year Drucker published his book. Schein’s primary focus is not innovation. It is organization culture and how to manage it. As it turns out, culture plays a key role in organization’s innovation stamina and it is extremely difficult to change. Typical change takes over several years or perhaps decades. Schein lays basic foundation of this topic in this book.

· Ideo, reality show on ABC (1999): Ideo made a significant contribution to systematic innovation. It brought the topic closer to public. It demonstrated in an ABC documentary titled “Deep Dive” (1999) that innovation can be done on a reality show. It showed how the first loop of experimentation can be executed systematically. Subsequently, Tom Kelley published two excellent books on this topic: The art of innovation and The ten faces of innovation both containing lots of pictures.

· Experimentation matters, Stefan Thomke (2003): “Experimentation matters” by Stefan Thomke is the first book which gives comprehensive treatment to the topic of systematic experimentation. It presents six principles of experimentation including the front-loading, fail early and fail often, organizing for rapid experimentation etc.

· Black Swan, Nassim Taleb (2007): In Black swan, Nassim Taleb makes following significant contributions: (1) It shows that innovation belongs to a category where Bell curve does not hold true. (2) “Prediction disability” is fundamental to human nature and trying to predict which technology, trend, product will be a winner is a loser’s game. (3) It presents a possible area where innovation mathematics may reside – mandelbrotian fractal geometry.

· Made to stick, Chip & Dan Heath (2007): In Made to stick, Chip brothers present a practical and robust framework for communicating your idea effectively. In doing so, it brings out the fundamental biases humans work with and identify the chief villain as: curse of knowledge. Stories and metaphors are sticky; numbers and abstractions aren’t. It gives us a perspective while watching Steve Jobs videos and reading Esop’s stories.

· Game changer, A G Lafley (2008): See A century of systematic innovation: From Edison to Lafley.

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